You want to succeed at whatever you’re doing, right?

Then stop making it harder than it is.

Life and business are deceptively simple: make more than you spend, and give more than you take. Everything else is just variety.

Inherently, we all know this. But we trip ourselves up by overcomplicating what’s essentially a very simple equation.

We spend too much time and money trying to find a magic bullet that will solve all our business problems. That quest for perfection stops us from putting one foot in front of the other and accomplishing even the first item on our to-do lists, much less our lifelong goals.

So forget about it.

To succeed, you really only need to be one of the following:

  • fast
  • cheap
  • good

Yes, you need to provide value to someone else, usually by solving a problem they can’t solve for themselves. Those traits above are just how you differentiate yourself from others offering that same service.

(Ironically, these same traits apply to dating. Go figure.)

What About “New”?

“New” isn’t a business plan; it’s just a temporary advantage.

People like to talk about what’s new. They may even like to sample it.

But if that new thing isn’t also faster, cheaper, or better than what they’re already using, they don’t need it.

When you’re fast, speed is your selling point. Your products and services help people solve their problems more quickly. You may not be the best, or the cheapest, but it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re good enough, certain people will pay you for acceptable outcomes with a fast turnaround time. That’s your market. Go wide, because you probably can’t go deep.

When you’re cheap, you’re always in demand. No matter what else is on the market, someone will always choose you because you’re affordable. You may not be able to attract the more discerning customers, but you don’t need every human being on the planet to buy your product. You just need enough customers to remain profitable. And there’s never been an economy in which frugality went extinct.

When you’re good, you’re trusted. You’re reliable. You’re recognizable. You may become a tradition, or you may become elite, but no one will ever accuse you of relying on gimmicks to succeed. You win because you pay attention to quality, and the customers who appreciate that value will, in turn, appreciate you.

Now, you may feel pressured to be all three, or at least two of the three. You may be a chronic overcompensator who believes that just being fast, or just being cheap, isn’t enough.

You’re wrong.

And you’re welcome.

Illustration by BJ Heinley


flora · June 4, 2015 at 12:10 am

I absolutely love the diagram. Years ago I was a laborer for a general contracting company and the foreman drew this out for me on a paper towel to train me on preparing estimates. I quickly realized how universal the concept was and have kept it in mind since that day.

    Justin Kownacki · June 4, 2015 at 12:16 am

    Thanks, Flora — and thanks also for the reminder that I didn’t credit the diagram’s designer. His name is BJ Heinley. I found his diagram through a Google Image search and I linked back to his original blog on the topic, but I forgot to credit him on the post. Just fixed that now.

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